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Dog-gone It: The Dr. Phil Dog Bite Lawsuit

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Los Angeles, CAIn February, KTTV Fox 11, out of Los Angeles, reported on the formal lawsuit filed by plaintiff Janet Harris alleging a bite from a dog owned by renowned television personality Dr. Phil McGraw caused her a grievous injury, forcing her to abandon her business. Dog bites are part of the mix of cautions every dog owner is required to ward against under Los Angeles Premises Liability—and dog bites are nothing new. However, a case involving a well-known celebrity tends to foster even bigger headlines.

The videos—one filed February 4, 2011, by KTTV reporter Jeff Michael, with the second a segment uploaded to YouTube by the Dr. Phil producers on July 9 of last year—center on Maggie, a valued pet owned by Phil and Robin McGraw. Harris, described as a close family friend and associate of the McGraws who has appeared a number of times on the Dr. Phil show, had been invited to the McGraw home to screen a Christmas special in which she appeared, when the alleged dog bite attack occurred.

Phil McGraw was apparently not at home at the time. The lawsuit alleges that Robin McGraw contacted her husband, who was reported to be playing golf that day, to say she was going to take Harris to the hospital. However, according to the contents of the lawsuit reported by KTTV, McGraw instructed his wife against taking the alleged dog bite victim to the hospital for treatment in an effort to avoid adverse publicity, the lawsuit states.

The plaintiff wound up going to the hospital on the advice of a doctor who was concerned for her safety, and specifically over the potential for contracting pastuerella multocida, a serious infection stemming from a dog bite wound that can prove fatal if left untreated.

Plaintiff Harris alleges in her premises liability California lawsuit that she has suffered hearing loss, together with a tremor in her right hand—the latter forcing her to close a thriving skin care business. The plaintiff alleges she has been abandoned by the McGraws. The defendants disagree, claiming in a statement released by Robin McGraw that she and her husband have offered support to Harris and stand by her as a friend.

In the statement featured in the FOX 11 video, Robin McGraw characterized the wound as minor, and claimed their dog was inadvertently startled. However, KTTV reporter Jeff Michael referenced a book featuring the observations of several celebrity dog owners—one of whom is Dr. Phil McGraw, who described his dog Maggie this way in "Top Dogs and Their Pets," regarding the one thing dog owners would change about their pets:

"Sometimes Maggie is too protective and if a stranger moves too quickly when I am in the room, she really bristles up and shows her teeth."

Harris notes that she was not a stranger to the home, and Phil McGraw was not home at the time. She is pursuing her lawsuit, filed February 2, with the help of a California dog bite lawyer. The McGraws reportedly responded March 7 with a request to have the lawsuit dismissed because of a pre-existing agreement to settle any and all disputes through private arbitration.


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